NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Meet the 2018 contenders in Washington’s 8th Congressional District: Jason Rittereiser

Repub­li­cans have dom­i­nat­ed Washington’s 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict since its cre­ation in the 1980s. As most read­ers of the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate are like­ly aware, entrenched incum­bent Dave Reichert is retir­ing this year after spend­ing over a decade as the district’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Democ­rats are eager to seize this oppor­tu­ni­ty to change the district’s lead­er­ship in Con­gress.

One of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic con­tenders fight­ing for a spot on the Novem­ber bal­lot is for­mer pros­e­cu­tor and labor lawyer Jason Rit­tereis­er. Rit­tereis­er is com­pet­ing against two oth­er Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates (Shan­non Had­er and Kim Schri­er), to see who will advance to the autumn bal­lot with Repub­li­can Dino Rossi.

Rit­tereis­er start­ed his career as a crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tor for King Coun­ty in the Spe­cial Assault Unit and the Vio­lent Crime Unit. He says this expe­ri­ence gave him the abil­i­ty to see a part of soci­ety that many peo­ple ignore.

“It allows you to inter­act with folks who are dis­ad­van­taged, who are often cast to the side of soci­ety, and under­stand­ing some of the chal­lenges those folks face is impor­tant,” he said in an inter­view with NPI.

When he tran­si­tioned into pri­vate prac­tice, Rit­tereis­er want­ed to work for a firm that reflect­ed his val­ues and stood up against pow­er­ful inter­ests. He became a labor and employ­ment lawyer, rep­re­sent­ing thou­sands of Wash­ing­ton work­ers in the fight against wage theft, wrong­ful ter­mi­na­tion, and unequal pay.

For his work, Jason received the Young Lawyer of the Year award from the King Coun­ty Bar Asso­ci­a­tion in 2017.

He brought the first cas­es to pro­tect nurs­ing moth­ers and domes­tic vio­lence vic­tims in the work­place in the State of Wash­ing­ton.

He links the proud­est moments of his career with the cas­es that allowed him to bring a voice to peo­ple who oth­er­wise would not have had one.

He hopes to con­tin­ue this advo­ca­cy if elect­ed into Con­gress.

“These are bat­tles that I’ve been on the front lines for and fun­da­men­tal­ly under­stand how laws effect peo­ple in their every­day lives,” Rit­tereis­er observed.

“I think I can have an influ­ence in how Con­gress crafts law to pro­tect peo­ple rather than pow­er­ful inter­ests and cor­po­ra­tions.”

Rit­tereis­er says what sets him apart from oth­er can­di­dates in the race is his con­nec­tion to the east­ern part of the dis­trict, which includes cities like Wenatchee. It’s an area that has his­tor­i­cal­ly vot­ed over­whelm­ing­ly Repub­li­can.

As Rit­tereis­er puts it: “I’m the only can­di­date ever [and the only] Demo­c­rat ever, to run in this dis­trict who is born and raised in East­ern Wash­ing­ton. I grew up in the dis­trict but on the oth­er side of the moun­tains, and if we’re going to win this dis­trict we’re going to have to con­nect with vot­ers every­where.”

A defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of the 8th Dis­trict is that it spans the Cas­cades, encom­pass­ing both urban and rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, Moun­tains. Rit­tereis­er hopes to unite both sides of the range and reach peo­ple in all cor­ners of the dis­trict.

“I think that peo­ple have the same con­cerns on both sides of the moun­tains”, Rit­tereis­er said, adding that even if dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and con­stituen­cies might approach issues from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, issues like child­care, edu­ca­tion, health­care, trans­porta­tion, and tar­iffs are major con­cerns for peo­ple every­where in the dis­trict — regard­less of par­ty affil­i­a­tion.

If elect­ed, Rit­tereis­er’s first pri­or­i­ty would be to pass a major infra­struc­ture invest­ment bill. In a polar­ized Con­gress, he notes infra­struc­ture as an issue that Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans have the abil­i­ty to work togeth­er on.

He specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned the need to update Washington’s ener­gy grid to make full use of the renew­able ener­gy tech­nol­o­gy in the 8th Dis­trict.

He also men­tioned the need for infra­struc­ture invest­ments to help the 700,000 homes in the state that don’t have access to broad­band tech­nol­o­gy.

Trump’s for­eign pol­i­cy agen­da is anoth­er major con­cern for Jason. He expressed con­cern that the president’s two hun­dred and thir­ty two tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum, and China’s sub­se­quent retal­ia­to­ry tar­iffs, will have sig­nif­i­cant impact on farm­ers and farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties in the 8th Dis­trict.

Rit­tereis­er was clear-eyed when talk­ing about the dan­ger of Trump’s fool­ish pos­tur­ing on trade, not­ing that no one wins in a trade war. “Chi­na has retal­i­at­ed by list­ing sig­nif­i­cant agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts on the tar­iff list. That includes apples, and cher­ries, and soy­beans, all of which are grown in this dis­trict.”

He hopes to increase con­gres­sion­al over­sight and involve­ment in nego­ti­at­ing trade deals — some­thing that he says incum­bent Dave Reichert is fail­ing to do.

Rit­tereis­er has secured many endorse­ments from labor unions and labor coun­cils around Wash­ing­ton. Some of these include Wash­ing­ton State Coun­cil of Fire Fight­ers, Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil, Ren­ton Fire­fight­ers Local 864, Pile Dri­vers and Divers Local 196, Inter­na­tion­al Union of Oper­at­ing Engi­neers Local 286, and the Sheet Met­al Work­ers Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion Local 66.

Many of these unions and orga­ni­za­tions cite Jason’s knowl­edge of work­ers’ rights and expe­ri­ence stand­ing up to pow­er­ful inter­ests as the rea­son for their sup­port.

“Jason’s expe­ri­ence hold­ing bil­lion-dol­lar cor­po­ra­tions account­able for mis­treat­ing their work­ers gives us con­fi­dence that he will be a leader on these issues in Con­gress, not just a good vote”, said Jeff John­son, the retir­ing Pres­i­dent of the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil, AFL-CIO.

(The WSLC has also endorsed Kim Schri­er.)

Rit­tereis­er points to this elec­tion as one of the most con­se­quen­tial elec­tions in his life­time. “We can’t over­state the impor­tance of this race”, he said.

“There’s twen­ty-three seats we need to take back in order to con­trol the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and whether or not Democ­rats take back con­trol of the House will deter­mine where our coun­try is in fif­teen and twen­ty years.”

Only a few weeks remain before the dead­line arrives to return bal­lots in the August Top Two elec­tion. They’re due to be mailed next week.

This year, for the first time in Wash­ing­ton State his­to­ry, it won’t be nec­es­sary to put a stamp on the return enve­lope to return it through the U.S. Mail. Pre­paid postage on bal­lot return envelopes has had a pos­i­tive effect in small­er scale tests. Next month, it faces its first big test, with poten­tial impli­ca­tions for the mar­quee mul­ti-coun­ty con­test for the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the 8th.

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